“With the dismissal of the case, we are sending the wrong message to the entire world that they can now harass, rape and abuse Filipino women without being punished because our very own government officials accused of such incidents were not given the appropriate sanction.” – Migrante International
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – Migrante International criticized the recent decision of the Department of Labor and Employment to dismiss the three counts of sexual harassment case against a former assistant labor attache involved in the “sex-for-fly” scandal.
“This is an injustice to all the victims of the sex-for-fly scheme,” Garry Martinez, chairperson of Migrante International, told Bulatlat.com.
Assistant labor attache to Saudi Arabia Antonio Villafuerte was implicated in a “sex-for-fly” scandal after three stranded overseas Filipino workers Angel, Annaliza and Michelle, not their real names, exposed the verbal sexual advances made on them and the offer of “part-time jobs” in exchange for plane tickets to Manila.
Michelle, in a previous interview with Bulatlat.com, said Villafuerte, one of the respondents, tried to pimp her to his Egyptian friend in exchange for a plane ticket to go back to Manila. Villafuerte, she added, also forcibly kissed her, touched her breasts and attempted to lift her abaya (clothes) inside the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Saudi Arabia.
Labor secretary Rosalinda Baldoz belied the testimony of Michelle, saying that the evidence they gathered on the alleged incidents of sexual harassment purportedly showed that it did not happen.
“With the dismissal of the case, we are sending the wrong message to the entire world that they can now harass, rape and abuse Filipino women without being punished because our very own government officials accused of such incidents were not given the appropriate sanction,” Martinez said.
Guilty of sexist jokes
Baldoz, however, said in news reports that Villafuerte was found guilty of making sexist jokes to one of the three complainants.
“Villafuerte is found guilty of the light offense of sexual harassment for telling smutty jokes and causing embarrassment to the complainant and is hereby meted the penalty of reprimand,” Baldoz said in a report, adding that another similar offense in the future would be dealt with more severely.
The sexist joke referred to was the text message of Villafuerte to Michelle that read, “andyan na yung salungki at salungsu mo” (Your panty and bra are here).
Salungki and salungsu are not commonly terms to refer to women’s underwear as the suffix “ki” refers to the vagina and “su” to breast. These terms are considered vulgar, to which, Baldoz, in a report, also said, citing the Commission on the Filipino Language’s findings that these terms are “obscene and lewd.”
But Gabriela Rep. Emmi de Jesus, in a statement, said that the “mere reprimand” on Villafuerte “provoked an angry reaction” from the progressive women’s group.
“I find it regrettable that DOLE secretary Rosalinda Baldoz found Mr. Villafuerte guilty of merely failing to ‘reflect the integrity of a public servant and giving courtesy and respect’ and this after such a lengthy bureaucratic process. Now labor officials who are similarly bent on sexually violating our OFWs will be emboldened to do it with impunity now that DOLE has proven that it sides with violators and not the victims,” De Jesus said.
De Jesus said that it is such a shame that this is the labor department’s “gift” to Filipino migrant workers.
Martinez, for his part, lauded the bravery of the three victims of the sex-for-fly scheme, who, in a Senate hearing, even removed their veil to show their identity to the public to remind the implicated government officials who they are.